BOOKNOTES: THE MASTERPIECE

THIS REVIEW IS POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 11th A DAY WE MUST NEVER FORGET. I DEDICATE IT TO THOSE WHO PERISHED, THE FIRST RESPONDERS AND THOSE OF US WHO REMAIN TO HONOR THEIR MEMORY.  WE ARE A VERY STRONG COUNTRY AND WE KNOW WE ARE SURVIVORS, NEW YORK CITY IS OUR BEACON OF LIGHT AND THIS STORY TELLS THE REBIRTH, OF TIME LONG GONE, OF AN EXQUISITE STRUCTURE THAT HAS SURVIVED DESPITE ALL ODDS, JUST LIKE ALL OF US!

563325A4-17ED-4593-B696-30915C471F00CB4C5E58-A3BF-4823-BD84-BA887661BA67                               Fiona Davis photograph by Kristen Jensen.

Having read The Dollhouse and The Address, both of which I absolutely loved, I didn’t want them to end, I waited with baited breath for Fiona Davis’ next book, The Masterpiece, to arrive.  I most certainly wasn’t disappointed  This time, like both of her other books, the story takes place in a landmark building in New York, the Grand Central Terminal.

It is the story, told in two time periods (seems to a trend in many of the novels I have been reading, wasn’t a fan, but am adjusting to them…this one definitely works!), of the art school housed in the Grand Central Terminal in New York, one of my favorite NYC structures.  You know how much I love historical fiction…this is a fascinating little known story.

Our two protagonists, Clara Darden, a noted illustrator, artist and teacher of the period, whose history has been lost to time, and Virginia Clay, recently divorced who has taken a job in the Information Booth at the dilapidated Terminal, tell stories of their different eras, one the late 1920’s and the other the 1970’s. While the stories are years apart, the way women were (are still?) treated in the workplace and in life in general isn’t much different.  Their stories intertwine with the downturn of their work place, the once glamorous GCT, and to my mind’s eye it is a tale of the arts during the Depression, how they survived, their decline in the ‘70’s and the promise of a light at “the end of the tunnel”, telling us that things can, indeed, get better, that beauty and confidence can be restored whether it is a building or a person and how our two women survive.  We follow them through love affairs, betrayed trust, found and lost friendships, power struggles (no matter your social class!), in other words, the real world.  We find the determination of one to find more about the other…the story we want to continue.  Ms. Davis is a master of mixing periods, giving us a story of architecture, New York City’s history and making the past come alive through the structures we come to admire and love

Relationships come and go, grow or die, new jobs, new directions, the promise of talent in many guises, so many life lessons in one work of fiction…I really enjoyed the book…I can’t wait to see what’s next in Ms. Davis’ oeuvre!!!

42nd Street entrance

37CC1548-DBD9-47FE-9BB8-EEF1D2960986

24DB2C0E-AC31-486A-AD42-A1C3ADA2160D

A cross section rendering of the building….love this and it relates perfectly to our story

The Great Hall and it’s restored constellations painted vaulted ceiling, it has always been one of my favorite places in NYC.

I try to go to the legendary Oyster Bar as often as I can, love the ambiance, the decor, the delicious good food…..oysters, of course!!!!

7443CCE0-AB06-440B-B33C-6F9D2B2B0626

Many a time I walked down this passageway to my train, The Twentieth Century…legendary, what train travel should be!! Oh my, another post…..why not!!!!

Commuting Ramp
Grand Central Station, Manhattan, New York

The catalogue for the Grand Central School of Art, one of the art instructors in the studio.  Opened in 1922 and closed in 1944 reported to have enrolled up to 900 students the year before it closed according to the author’s notes

5233F3DB-D898-4006-80AD-174C14205DEA

The restoration and rededication in 1998 was led by architecture firm Breyer Blinder Platt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and brought the derelict building back to its glory, preserving it for the ages. This looks like yet another book I need to add to my collection.  I am mad for nostalgia, but you know that!!!

D437A163-5D7F-4219-BF16-5AA49756D1DE

And then there is this….Sir Paul McCarthy impromptu performance at Grand Central Terminal last week!!!!

All photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

THIS POST GENEROUSLY UNDERWRITTEN BY AN ANONYMOUS DONOR. CONTACT ME FOR SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES. 

Advertisements

FASHION EXTRA: RALPH LAUREN THE FIRST 50 YEARS!!!!!

1DD690DB-ACD7-45DD-B0F1-AF07759C35BDI have worn, shown, lived with, admired, Ralph Lauren’s creativity for all those 50 years. The excitement of this extraordinary exuberant extraganza was a once in a lifetime “happening”. From the venue, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, to the pre-show reception (and the people watching), to the staging (perfection), to the presentation (featuring a diverse mix of 150 models and more people watching), to the finale (all models on the staircase with Ralph taking his finale bow-wave), to the formal sit down dinner (further people watching and a toast lead by Oprah!), WOW! For those of us not there in person, we have the modern experience of technology and can watch the evening streaming, via video feeds, still photos, the joyous postings, on all social media platforms, and can absorb this perfect event from beginning to end whenever we choose.  All I can say….I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the ensuing years. Fashion is not dead, long live fashion…Bravo Ralph Lauren Bravo!!!

97F46603-D580-4A62-92C1-025AE1015B10

The staging.

9031FFF2-933B-460D-AECA-A46AB9DCDA4F

Lets take a look at some of my favorites, I can’t show you every run, would love to, you can find many on line sources to show you the entire collection.  Here, then, in no particular order my likes….

0D166EF6-603B-4BEF-9E12-40628D6C2929

179C6EC5-D096-4117-9B13-88BBD6C4160C

07FB5695-3135-46D8-AA6D-C20E96DED8C64348C724-9B37-4E18-91A5-8D4EFD86CBFB

71F04AD1-6716-4EC7-876F-7AA29DC422331E8B957B-9D94-4674-9F86-ACECF1330CEDNotice Chicago’s own, Chance The Rapper (in baseball cap) in the front row.

96402912-F65E-4245-80E0-B19752A8E74D

9F17458B-C27D-46F3-8135-BC36C04A5468431E9CE3-DD0F-4B12-8210-A05F7DCBDA8CLove Ralph in a typical outfit, tuxedo jacket with distressed jeans, modernity at its best!!! I think this is one of Jeffrey Banks’ fabulous photos of the evening.  See his Facebook postings for a incredible capture of the evening. An aside, Jeffrey was a sketch artist for Ralph back in the day. Two true American creators, long may they wave!!!!

Photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown

 

PROFILE: JEFFREY BANKS–GENTLEMAN CREATOR

IMG_4166

 

The exciting world of Social Media brought me to Jeffrey Banks.  I have, of course, admired his work forever, first and still as a designer and then and now as an author. I got to Jeffrey through Facebook accounts from our mutual friend, the multi-talented, Michael Vollbracht who I did have the pleasure of knowing and working with…I did a blog post recently just following his untimely death.  I am posting this Profile of Jeffrey, who graciously agree to do my nenasnotes questionnaire, on the day of Michael’s Memorial Service in New York.

Michael_Volbracht's_Norell_Student_Sketch

Michael Vollbracht’s delightful work as a student at Parson’s where he won the Norman Norell Award, Mr. Norell was not able to present the award instead it was presented by Bill Blass who became a lifelong friend of Michael’s and who designed the Blass Collection after Mr. Blass’ death.  I bet they are now very busy designing the robes for the angels!

Last week Jeffrey delighted my nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club group, via conference call, with reminiscences of the unsurpassed designer Norman Norell as recounted in Jeffrey’s exquisite book NORELL: Master of American Design. Jeffrey’s books are as well done as his design work, all perfection.

Thank you, Jeffrey Banks, for joining my blogging adventure and for sharing your insight into the world of fashion via your exceptional books…you can be sure I will call upon you to chat again in the very near future to discuss another of your books….let’s see which one shall be next….stay tuned!!

Want to hear more about this unique creator…read on in Jeffrey’s own words……

IMG_3024
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB
My first job was at age 15 selling Men’s clothing at Britches of Georgetown . I loved it and on my very first day sold more than any of the seasoned professional salesman did combined.
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT OCCUPATION
Unfortunately, it seems to be planning memorial services for friends.
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR TALENT
I always loved to draw, and at a very young age thought that I might become an artist. That was until I found out that most of the artists that I admired did not achieve success or fame during their lifetimes, so at the tender age of 10 I decided to become a designer. The reasoning being that I would know rather instantly whether the things that I designed had struck a cord with the public….or not!
Baby JB
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD “MADE IT” 
I think it was the day after the night I won my first Coty Award and I was with my Mother at Bergdorf’s on the up escalator and two guys were going down on the down escalator and I heard them say as we sailed passed …” Oh look, there’s designer, Jeffrey Banks!”
Coty Awards 1982
                                                         Coty Award winner 1982
Mom and I at the Coty Awards September 23rd, 1982
Coty Awards 1982 Cover Invite
Jeffrey Banks Ladies 3 1
HOW YOUR ORIGINAL PASSION BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW
I feel so lucky that my original passion for fashion has allowed me to make a living, branch out to books, go on television, teach, and meet so many of the people I most admired in the world. I feel very fortunate.
3CB8316B-AB93-483E-9E14-21E110C74467
Lyn_Revson_big
IMG_3041
marilyn-monroe-x-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqdA_NBi6rCRnB37f-2HCqshh4Osy19_fl0xneADsLrLg
michelle-obama-in-vintage-norman-norell-gown-at-the-tnt-christmas-in-washington-special__oPt-2
All in Norman Norell…..Lynn Revson one of the biggest collectors of Norell.
IMG_3029
IMG_3026
IMG_3027
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR ALTERNATE CHOICE AS A CAREER….WAS THERE ONE
There really wasn’t an alternate choice at the time. But, as I love photography so much, I would have to say, Art Director.
YOUR FAVORITE BOOK, MOVIE, THEATER (LEGIT, MUSICALS), BALLET, OPERA, SYMPHONY, TYPE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO, LOCAL RESTAURANT
Favorite Book : A Private View by Irene Mayer Selznick  ( a great read on early Hollywood by Louis B. Mayer’s daughter )
Favorite Movie: Funny Face ( it’s got it all : Fashion, Paris, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy, Gershwin, Avedon)…who could ask for anything more ? 
Theater: Anything Sondheim !
Ballet: Anything Balanchine !
Opera: Anything Directed by Bartlett Sher
I love show tunes , Streisand, and Adele
My favorite restaurant is Union Square Cafe 
HOME….MODERN, TRADITIONAL, ANTIQUES (WHAT ERA) ECLECTIC
Mostly modern, clean white with some antiques in bleached pine. I work with color all day long so I need an absence of color at home,
WHO WOULD YOU HAVE AT YOUR FANTASY DINNER AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE 
Fred Astaire, George Gershwin, Michelle and Barack Obama, Audrey Hepburn and Rob Wolders, Hubert de Givenchy, Bruce Weber, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Jeffrey Banks, Diahann Carroll would be the guests. 
I would serve my Risotto with Carmelized Onions and Figs with a side salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with a Shallot, Dijon Mustard, and Honey Vinaigrette (see recipe below). For Starters: Baked Brie with Honey, Brandy and Walnuts. For dessert, Assorted Gelatos

FAVORITE VACATION SPOT VISITED AND/OR ON YOUR GO TO LIST 
London, is my favorite city after NY and I love Italy, especially Florence, Tuscany and Venice. Love to discover (and re-discover) great museums and try new restaurants.In London, Theater and Shopping is everything for me! 
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING MOST IN YOUR FREE TIME? FAVORITE WORK  OF PUBLIC ART
I LOVE to read (books and magazines ) especially biographies. I love going through The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection here in NY. 

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED
As a kind person, loyal to his friends.
                               THANK YOU AND BRAVO JEFFREY BANKS, BRAVO!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF JEFFREY BANKS WITH EXCEPTION OF THE BOOK COVERS, TAKEN FROM GOOGLE PHOTOS.
                                              ELEANOR BANKS’ MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

 

1 lb Ground Chuck

1/2 lb Pork Sausage

1 Medium Small Onion (chopped finely)

1/2 Green Pepper  (chopped finely)

2-3 Spines of Celery (chopped finely)

3/4 cup Bread Crumbs

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Celery Salt

2 Cans Hunts Tomato Sauce

Combine all ingredients mix very well with 1 can of tomato sauce.  Shape loaf in lightly greased Pyrex pan.  Take other can of tomato sauce and mix with 1/2 can water and set aside.  Place loaf in pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.  After 1/2 hour reduce heat to 325 and bake loaf for additional 40 minutes.  Pour off excess fat and baste with tomato sauce that was set aside.

              JEFFREY BANKS’ HONEY, SHALLOT, DIJON MUSTARD  VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons honey

1 large shallot, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

 



 

BOOK NOTES: THE ROMANOV EMPRESS

D656140D-AC78-4BC6-8863-CCDFB8346F1AI must begin this review by saying I am most certainly not a fan of the current Russian regime, in fact I am appalled by it.  I was fortunate to visit this extraordinary country and meet its gracious people in 2002 (I will do blog posts on the amazing trip in the future) when it was just learning to embrace its new “freedom” from Communism, well, I’m afraid, that was short lived.  Since I’m not a political commentator nor do I like to express negativity in my posts, I shall not bore you with my opinions on how I feel about the Russian government and its involvement in our affairs, but rather turn to the grandeur of the Romanov’s in the 19th century and their ultimate demise.

9EA4A792-91E3-4447-820F-7DBF8958F3DC

Tsarina Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)

I found The Romanov Empress to be a fascinating read from cover to cover.  The detailed research done by C. W. Gortner is extraordinary.  He has, changed some dates and anglicized many of the Russian names, but I felt, having read a lot about the time of Nicholas II and Alexandra and, of course their execution but not much about his parents, he gave us a precise story.  I have always been fascinated by Russian history and by now you are aware of my passion for historical novels….this detailed intriguing story did not disappoint me, in fact it makes me want to find more novels and non-fiction about this period in time. I was aware of the intermarriage of the European royals, but this telling put these marriages in perspective. The world, in all ways, was at a major turning point and now, a century plus years later, is still in turmoil. Can we change our destinies, I doubt it, but shouldn’t we learn from history or are we destined to keep making mistakes!!!!  Oops, seems a bit deep doesn’t it….perhaps Tzarist thinking!  Let’s get to our story….

It is basically a love story of a man and woman who happen to rule Russia and their children and their children’s children.  It is also the story of a very strong woman, “Minnie” (the Tsarina), who was instrumental, to a great extent, in forward thinking of women’s rights as well as preserving, above all else, the Romanov dynasty, which she supported, in all ways, until the very end. We learn about her sister’s marriage to Bertie, The Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria, the Russian court, exquisite descriptions of the social protocol of the time, the fashion, much from Charles Frederick Worth, the art, the jewelry, oh the jewelry, and, of course, the palaces.  And mostly the pride in upholding the centuries of Romanov rule and then seeing this regime destroy itself….so very sad!  Do I recommend the book, yes, yes and yes.
4BD4E0E5-3022-4195-BC3E-A54C61C1141D

Tsar Alexander III, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

BCCDD1CF-96EC-45B1-86D8-9AEBDAA1A19F

St. Petersburg late 1900’s

I will definitely read more of Gortner’s novels, I’m considering his Mademoiselle Chanel as an upcoming nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club selection

This post is generously underwritten by an anonymous sponsor who is an avid reader. My everlasting gratitude.  Contact me for sponsorship opportunities. 

Photos found on a Pinterest photo credit unknown.

NG Apple_NetGalley Health Rev 3

FASHION NOW: DOLCE & GABBANA ALTA MODA FALL 2018

A5C14957-B145-4A7F-A367-F57C0C8DF452

Designers who always know how to produce the most extravagant fashion shows… Dolce & Gabbana, didn’t disappoint with their Fall 2018 Alta Moda (high fashion) presentation at Lake Como, Italy. Drama was in abbondanza!  Here are a few of the many looks, filled with the expected floral prints, exquisite accessories and diverse mix of models. Over the top creativity presented in lush surroundings with an operatic soundtrack to create an even more ”Alta Moda” atmosphere!  Designers who don’t shy away from drama in their creations nor controversy in their opinions, lived up to all expectations.

CA72AAD3-F473-4769-94DE-C1D2B3FBA2A79FA55AE0-AB6C-479B-B4CF-C0FF11E1B1B3

8D02F9AF-BD4A-40FA-8E80-B9A50FA356A9

8A8EFDCE-AEFA-4617-B1B4-559C09BD2BE0

6982FCBA-BE77-49EF-96B4-C1074C5E1C8CA portion of the finale.

All photos found on Pinterest credits unknown.

FASHION NOW: FALL 2018 HAUTE COUTURE PART 2

Maison Margiela by John Galliano….no, not strange nor laughable…look closely at ALL the detail, the use of accessories, the color mixing, layering. Shoes with tech devices attached.  Are we painting our faces in bold foundation colors, no but to me the statement is color completing a look and we DO paint our faces! One can debate whether Galliano is either a genius or marching to his own inner voice…I am in the genius camp, well maybe both!!!!!

1ABFD288-C506-427C-A9D1-3E4F619D4631

15D0C759-B78B-4ED0-A2F1-46AEAEF6EAC1

2768C09D-8040-452F-9E39-388506863038

Perhaps one of the most covered collections, Valentino by Pierpaolo Piccioli, brought a tear to Valentino’s eye as he lead the standing ovation at the finale. Exquisitely crafted gowns in bold solid colors as well as brocades, lames, the perfect black gown, and the “fabric” of the collections, feathers. Head coverings of real flowers in the same bold palettes of the glorious fashions. I am in awe of the extreme bouffant hair, taking us back to Avedon’s “Swans”! A Valentino collection to remember without question.

A refined neutral palette formed the Dior collection as interpreted by Maria Grazia Chiuri.  Saying she wanted to celebrate the House’s heritage, she definitely defined the elegance that is Dior.  The day pieces reflected the essence of the House.  Loved the cape, so useful in Chicago, the sheer tulle in the perfectly constructed youthful  gowns and…feathers. Again may I call your attention to the accessories especially the charming side tilted “beanie”.

538A2909-560D-48E8-880E-64A359287D76

 

0D61642B-3BCC-470A-92E7-6223C35556B8

In my opinion, which, after all, is what nenasnotes is all about….my opinion, the resurrection of the House of Schiaparelli just gets better now under the direction of Bertrand Guyon.  The signature Shocking Pink, trompe l’oeil details, a fluff of the obligatory feathers…the excitement that is fashion. Fun, unexpectd twists = a la mode!

18471E41-118D-4AFE-88A8-28CDCAAB0A9E

Giambattista Valli one of my favs doesn’t disappoint.  Great day pieces, but he excels with his dramatic gowns, although let’s start rethinking the “high-low” lengths…we’ve seen it, but still….gorgeous! Feathers, you bet, even for shoes.

8EA9EED5-14F5-4AC1-A16C-F0BAB3194375

 

6C3D48DF-0823-45AA-B89C-193FBB295C70

What House and Artistic Director could be more in the news than Givenchy and Clare Waight Keller, no one I can think of. All it takes is a major star whether that is M. Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn or Claire Waight Keller and the new Duchess of Sussex. Again a current designer delving into the archives of a master creator….how wrong can you go…..you can’t.

 

Giorgio Armani Prive Couture Fall 2018
Giorgio Armani Prive Couture Fall 2018

Does Giorgio Armani ever go off brand….no, never. Armani Prive has it all.  I really need to find a new word for classic, translates to boring in my current modern minds eye, but until I can replace it let’s use it….perhaps modern classic = always a perfect wardrobe addition. The Fall 2018 Collection is a stunner.  Particularly like the  coat as jacket, I look I have long embraced.

B86E802B-A7B6-4775-9A1A-F02E863E9410

Haute Couture must always push us, bring us new technologies, fabrications, techniques, the FUTURE, why not….who does it best, Iris van Herpen, her innovations stretch us to see clothing in new ways…that is what it is all about.

BE5C2C64-79C3-46B0-AE10-ED50D65E6DCE

BF3FE53C-0C97-4809-9F5F-95D092CA5BC2

Of course, some of our most creative talents continue to make us think, give us fun, beautifully crafted garments with a bit of tongue in cheek, no one does that better than the dynamic duo Viktor & Rolf!

And there you have it….the glory, that is my edited edition, of Paris Haute Couture Fall 2018. Next up the marathon fashion weeks beginning in New York in September. A good time to read your nenasnotes The Fashion Book August 28th selection NORELL: Master of American Fashion so you will be prepared for our discussion….what you say, you haven’t signed up for the monthly meetings….contact me for all the details and join our fascinating group.

                          All photos from Pinterest photo credits not available. 

FASHION FLASHBACK, FASHION NOW, FASHION ALWAYS: BOB MACKIE

C0AB8F75-4D08-4522-9CCC-9350DD16E643

Courtesy of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, all my inscribed designer photos hung on my office wall and are now house in a the Archives

Cher, Carol Burnett, Barbie all have one thing in common….BOB MACKIE!!!! The king of making every woman glamorous whether they are on stage or wearing something unique for a special night….what a gift he has.  His love for show business, and more importantly, the joy of making all his ladies look beyond amazing is, without a doubt, magnificently on display in the brand new Pre-Broadway production The Cher Show at Chicago’s Oriental Theater through July 15th. A must see!  Saw it loved it, the three Chers are spot on as is Sonny, Greg, et al, and the subject of this post, Bob Mackie, has not only outdone himself with the costumes but, in my opinion, his stage double steals the first act…..just saying… The show brings us back to the beginnings and we realized the talent and the relationship and collaboration between the star performer and the star designer…  bravo.

7A165BC7-DB9E-48A5-9CFF-FEFBDD35172C

A sketch for proposed costumes in The Cher Show.

Bob’s career began in his native California as a sketch artist for Edith Head at
Paramount Studios. His talent for costuming, which began there, is unparalleled
Just think of the excitement, glamour and wit he brought to the weekly live Carol Burnett show. Week after week we would experience his extraordinary costumes
that not only set the tone for the skits but helped create the characters as well.
Can we ever forget the classic “Scarlett O’Hara” skit with the “curtain” gown,
pure Mackie!!! The Carol Burnett Show introduced him to Cher who was appearing as a guest on the show….need I say the rest of that story is show biz and fashion history.

1FD86BAB-5F6F-49CD-84B1-173D4657FA9C

Bob’s sketch for the classic Miss Scarlett “curtain” dress, it now lives in the Smithsonian collections, where it should be as a part of American history

The first time I saw Sonny and Cher, at the very beginning of their career, they
were totally dressed in hippie garb and looked like “mountain people”, whatever  that means…when they started their variety TV show Cher became a fashion icon, and remains one to this day, again, totally a Mackie collaboration.  The occasion of my seeing these performers was at a Chicago Tribune College Council event held annually at either the Sherman House Hotel or the Morrison Hotel (both demolished long ago).  The Tribune hosted all the Chicago retailers College Boards which were a group of college women that worked in the “college departments” at their stores. Each store “marched” into the ballroom in their specially selected outfits some stores had huge groups (think Marshall Fields and Carson Pirie Scott) and Saks Fifth Avenue usually had 8, in my humble opinion, we were a small group but our ladies looked amazing in their gear!  When this duo went to the stage the audience was stunned, I don’t think many knew who they were….the minute they began I’ve Got You Babe, everyone not only witnessed stars in action but left the room knowing they wanted to hear more and more we have heard through the years.

I had the great pleasure of working with this designing genius on many formal
fashion productions, most of which were presented in the International Ballroom
at the Hilton Hotel. They were always major choreographed shows that were
themed and featured more beading than any Ziegfeld Show. They were beyond
glamorous and the audience not only loved the shows but adored Bob. Saks Fifth
Avenue always had a huge sales result and many of the pieces we sold are now
housed in the Costume Collection at the Chicago History Museum and the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago. Before Saks Fifth Avenue did these shows the trunk shows were presented at Kane’s and the Collection was also carried at Stanley Korshak, both stores long gone from the Chicago retail scene while Saks Fifth Avenue remains strong, since 1929, on Michigan Avenue.

6E6DD9C4-3717-421A-8149-3BBF76E9664C

FCCD806F-8E1B-4935-81F2-D75CBCC34103

The above photos are Bob doing his finale walk at one of our formal shows, the second, with me, in the Lobby of the Hilton Chicago Ballroom, prior to another show.

AAE39D20-821D-43A5-85C0-1DAF33F2F81F

68F84B4D-56AB-4788-8566-D263921644EB

C497301C-4D39-4A01-ABE0-DDA453A02179

EAB410E0-7888-4008-AD2A-FBA9AAC05772

7C389CFE-94C6-4883-A0FC-0715E4A7C6B9

My piece, yes, there are Mackie day pieces….it now lives in the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago as are the above photos (alas, not from my wardrobe) all were taken by Tanner Branson at my request.

Bob, being the gracious gentleman he is, agreed to be my date when I co-chaired my second DIFFA gala in 1991, also at the Hilton Chicago, it was a Venice masquerade event, my co-chair, Michael Hasten, brought a Fortuny mask from a visit to Venice for me and Bob sent me a major ball gown to wear….below you see us at the party (I think we look like we are at our prom…a very glamorous one to be sure!)

C736AF92-744B-4201-AA94-8168BA6302E4

The DIFFA ball in 1990 and the Costume Council event, 2015, same faces a few years later…Dennis Minkel, another dear friend, brought the original photo so we could reinterpret it…fun, yes, indeed!

 

 

 

 

The second book we read for the monthly nenasnotes The Fashion Book Club. (Let me know if you are interested in attending and I’ll send you all the details.) We meet the fourth Tuesday of each month (I’m skipping July, next up Jeffrey Bank’s brilliant monograph NORELL in August). I thought an appropriate selection with all the Mackie excitement in Chicago this month.  We had a lively discussed at our June gathering while sipping Haute Couture Bubbles, delish and mini bites.  The attendees had great questions, obviously a book club is all about discussing the book!

The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum honored Bob with their Designer of Execellence Award at a conversation with Hal Rubenstein and sit-down dinner in April 2015.  Bob, like all our designer guests, viewed some of the treasures in the Costume Collection, and was beyond impressed with the selections he was shown.

I’m with my dear friend, Abra Wilkin, at the Costume Council Award Dinner…both wearing pieces from Abra’s Mackie Collection.  Bob was thrilled to reminisce with Abra about his Chicago visits and the CHM Costume.

4EEE9885-95BE-42B3-BB7E-9E03B85F56E3

B74938C3-BF8C-455A-BD86-0154F104224D

Saks launched the Mackie fragrance and he created a special edition relaunch for gifts for the dinner guests….each signed by Bob…special indeed.  One of the attendees of The Fashion Book Club, Tanner Branson, found this jacket on Etsy it was done as a promotion piece for the fragrance.  I seem rather animated while leading the discussion and showing my DIFFA gown festured in the book.  Photo courtesy of another standee, David Sanchez.

 

Two Mackie pieces that were in the CHM Exhibition Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair.  The gorgeous hot pink feather costume, was in one of  the Mackie formal runway shows I worked on….it was the piece in the exhibition I sponsored.  The other more pure Mackie glam!

It has been my extreme pleasure to have worked with this design genius who really knows how to put the “show” in show business and share his wisdom, talent and joie de vie with his stars and his clients….glamour is most certainly Bob Mackie’s forte.869D7C6B-530D-4270-A573-71F3426E28B4Another iconic genius…Victor Skrebneski, photographer extraordinaire, and my friend of more years than we care to admit, did a brilliant video program for my Fashion Group International Chicago Award in 1990, also at the Hilton Chicago. He asked Bob to send gowns for me to wear for the photo session….a story unto itself…here is one in ink green sequins, an example of Bob Mackie creating a body even if you don’t have one……

Bob, thank you for making my professional life the joy it was and for filling everyone’s lives with glitter, glam and drop dead gorgeous creations all Unmistakably Mackie!

When previewing this post…the photos seem to be off center, can’t seem to be able to correct this problem…..so sorry, I hope you enjoy the copy along with the photos and sketches, any illustrations or photos, not credited, were found on Pinterest and I don’t have photo credits. The two sketches are by Bob Mackie also found on Pinterest

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: RITZ & ESCOFFIER

TODAY’S POST IS UNDERWRITTEN BY AN ANONYMOUS SPONSOR

 

868F2B3E-5259-4876-AD6E-29933FF56059You know I love a great historical novel, probably my favorite genre, and here we have real history that reads like the plot of a novel. And if that isn’t reason enough to grab this fascinating tale then just look at the cover (in this case, you can definitely tell the book by its cover), putting on the Ritz or Ritzy come to mind, both in todays vernacular. 

13B00D37-B0FC-4765-BEF8-3A04D86E809DCesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier

The innovations these genius’s brought to the hospitality industry set the standard, in the late 19th Century, that are followed by today’s Grand Hotels and fine restaurants world-wide.  They weren’t afraid of doing whatever it took to give their esteemed clientele the best and newest of everything in food, service, accommodations, and, of course, the best staffs in each property.  Ritz was known for  only wanting the best and had no problem spending money to achieve his high standards often to the chagrin of his partners and shareholders.  Think bathrooms in each guest room and suite, electricity throughout the properties, elevators, special meals for unaccompanied ladies to be in the hotels restaurants without male escorts and on and on.

8FEBCDF9-4890-4155-BC91-BDB2E22E1D3D

I remember my first trip to London going to The Savoy for cocktails before the theater, I don’t remember what we saw that night, but do remember a feeling of nostalgia for a time long ago when I got out of the car and saw that amazing SAVOY  sign….wow!

57624E91-DEC3-4555-88D8-32085D01837A

Cesar Ritz came to The Savoy in London at the request of the owner, Richard D’Oyly Carte (think Gilbert and Sullivan, that D’Oyly Carte!).  He already had made a name for himself managing several properties on The Continent where he made each prosperous and unique.  He turned The Savoy into THE place to go with the partnering of Auguste Escoffier, who had already established himself in the world of haute cuisine as an ingenious creator as well as his streamlined working ofvhiskitchens. Both gentlemen knew how to “work the room” and charmed their ever growing clientele, which included all of high society from around the world and, of course, had the blessing and attendance of the Prince of Wales, at the eleborate meals Escoffier invented and prepared in his perfectly orchestrated kitchen. All went beyond expectations until scandal breaks out (no spoilers from me!) and forces the men to Paris and The Ritz…..

6A185713-EB35-42D5-BFCD-B89BF6C199D3The Ritz, Paris

1639B5D4-3038-4794-9CAF-A2243DE9376AGabrielle Chanel in her apartment at The Ritz, Paris

I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book, the history of the hospitality and food industry and the men and women (their wives, who wore gowns from the Couture Houses of Charles Frederick Worth and Jacques Doucet, played a huge part in the story as do the celebrities of the day, Nellie Melba…think Peach Melba and Melba Toast, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde….all came to The Savoy). I not only learned so much but did so in a most entertaining way, Luke Barr has written a book (get it you will truly enjoy the story on so many levels) that I will refer to often and wish, yet again, that I could transport myself back into that creative time of the Belle Époque, of course with all the modern amenities we have now, in addition, of course, to those Ritz provided, elevators, bathrooms, individual service, exquisite food…..well maybe I don’t need to be that modern and can be extremely comfortable without today’s tech devices!!!!!  And you………..

Two more for your library, they are going into mine.

B079F93C-9689-45B4-9E38-37722AE118F8

One of my favorite Escoffier recipes, there are so many i couldn’t possibly mention them all including Melba toast…love making it from my French Brioche loaf, is  Baked Alaska, which he called “eggs and ice” and served to great acclaim. I have always loved this photo from the original Betty Crocker (yes, even Betty Crocker bows at the Escoffier throne!) cookbook I gave my mother when it was first published (I still have the book and use it all the time, its spine is held together with masking tape!). I have never made it but isn’t it the most fabulous photo ever….the styling, even back then, is perfection. Maybe, just maybe this summer with homemade raspberry ice cream…..just saying….

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: A NECESSARY EVIL

17126C6B-5355-4A14-A66E-3357186082A7I had read about this book on many of the book blogs I follow and was eager to put it on my TBR list. I hadn’t read Abir Mukherjee’s first book in the series, A Rising Man, but found it wasn’t necessary (I will, however, put it on my list), his main characters, our protagonist, Captain Sam Wyndham and his Sergeant ’Surrender-Not’ Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force are clearly drawn in this installment

From the flyleaf ”India, 1920, Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee….investigate the assassination of a Maharajah’s son…..As they desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules….”  Why wouldn’t you want to read this book!!  It certainly got me.

The murder of the heir takes place in Calcutta in front of Wyndham and Banerjee at the beginning of our story.  We then follow them to the wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore (Sambalpur), the wealth is diamonds and coal.  See the map of India below for the ”real” location of our story.

E0F41EBD-CBBB-4095-B1B0-1323A2498F26

Here we learn of the Maharajah’s three wives, the middle wife, the mother of the two adult sons has died, the first a contemporary of the aging Maharajah and the third a young beauty with a young prince. The intrigue of Palace politics is explained when we meet members of the inner circle both Indian and English as well as the ”harem” guarded by eunuchs.  We are taken into the world of opium, Indian religious traditions, and ceremonies. We go on glamorous trains (better than the Orient Express), attend formal dinner parties (everyone, of course, dresses for dinner, but then they dress for every occasion! Why can’t we still do that?!) we even learn how to hunt on top of elephants. The Raj is still in effect but times are changing and the power (read money) is the main focus of the time and the novel. Times are changing…wealth and influence are changing as well, while human nature and traditions remain the same.

F8992C77-E53F-4555-B2AD-5136B7B1DAD6An image of a Maharajah with rows and rows of diamonds and other precious stones. Iris….eat your heart out!  Photo from Pinterest credit unknown.

Our story takes many twists and turns. We have a love interest (no sex here my friends, implied, perhaps!), a bit of violence and lots and lots of intrigue and information on a time I was eager to learn more about. I must admit I was taken by surprise by the reveal of the assassin (no spoilers here), you have to read almost to the very end to find out ”who did it”!  I thoroughly enjoyed Mukherjee’s writing, his detail of the time was informational and makes me want to further explore this subject while I wait for the next adventures of Captain Wyndham and Sargeant Banerjee.

97C880D3-AB1D-492B-AA50-5BCF64366E82

The author, Abir Mukherjee, photo by Nick Tucker.

Would I recommend the novel, absolutely and you know I always recommend patronizing your local Independent Bookseller.

Mukherjee recommends Ann Morrow’s HIGHNESS The Maharajahs of India for further research….on my list for sure.

9EFAE5C6-6702-4783-AC34-4499C04EC42622E8FD27-111E-44BF-ADB6-2D3CB2C64516I am recommending The Great Courses, A History of India, also on my list